Emma Johnson plays Weber

Author: 
John Warrack

Emma Johnson plays Weber

  • Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 1
  • Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra No. 2
  • Concertino for Clarinet and Orchestra
  • Grand duo concertant

Emma Johnson's four Weber performances were originally coupled to a miscellany of works, principally Crusell's concertos. They are attractive, intelligent performances, and it makes sense to combine them on to a single disc. The concertos are well played orchestrally, and well recorded; and in the Grand duo concertant, Johnson finds a splendid partner in Gordon Back. They phrase unanimously, with a mutual confidence in, and mutual relish of, each other's virtuosity that is exactly what is implied by the piece's extraordinarily original nature. In the central section of the Andante con moto, Back is eloquent with music that needs a strong expressive charge, and he and Johnson are witty and spirited in the giddy swerves of the finale.
Ottensamer, at budget price, is disadvantaged by a somewhat grey recording, which among other things sets him rather far back. This is not so unsuitable for the slow movements, where he and the conductor are very careful to respond to Weber's fascinating blends of tone colour, and he also makes an interesting entry in No. 1, stealing in with a gentle, slightly melancholy opening phrase. He also takes the reasonable option of drawing back a little at the C minor section (at 5'06''), and again handles nicely the slow central section of the Concertino (at 5'33''). However, the Rondo Allegretto of No. 1 is, if perky, a little tame, and the Alla polacca of No. 2 has a good feeling for structure but is low in excitement. For all his qualities, he does not have the wit, the bravura, the sense of fun which is as much part of the music as the reflective and the melancholy. Of the two records, there is no doubt that Johnson's performances are the more rewarding; and there is the bonus of the Grand duo concertant. Both players, incidentally, use the Barmann editions (or something close to them) rather than Weber's originals.'

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